'Blairite' Brown says that Labour reforms will go on

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Indy Politics

A government under Gordon Brown would follow in the "Blairite" path, the Chancellor said yesterday.

As he defended himself against attacks that his pre-Budget report would do permanent damage to UK oil reserves, he said any future Labour government will continue to reform the country, and the changes will be "intensified" in the coming years.

Although Mr Brown declined to discuss the timetable of a handover of power, he was clear that any backbenchers hoping for a slowing of pace under a new leader will be disappointed.

"There will be no let-up in any reform, whoever is in power," he said, as he quickly played down any implication that he is taking the succession for granted.

"I don't talk about who's going to be in positions of authority. I do my job as Chancellor," he told the Today programme. "But whoever is running this modern Labour Party, it will be a reforming Labour Party, stepping up at every point and intensifying the pace of reform so people get value for money from public services and we are a stronger, more dynamic entrepreneurial economy that leads the world in key industries and key services."

He rejected Tory attacks that the pre-Budget report is a "humiliation" that has left his economic golden rule "tarnished and discredited", insisting that despite the reduction in the growth forecast from 3 to 3.5 per cent to 1.75 per cent as borrowing soars £5bn over his Budget forecast to £37bn, the economy is "well placed" for the future.

"The question you have got to ask is are you now well positioned for the future? And I believe that the economy is. I think most people, when they see low inflation and high employment, know that is the case," he told BBC Breakfast.

But the Chancellor faced the anger of oil companies and private pension companies yesterday.

The oil industry said the £2bn-a-year raid on North Sea profits would do permanent damage to UK oil and gas reserves. Malcolm Webb, chief executive of the UK Offshore Operators Association, said he was "staggered" that the Chancellor had increased corporation tax on the oil industry to 50 per cent. He said the move would take £6.5bn out of the industry over three years and warned that it would "cost this country heavily in terms of jobs, inward investment, balance of trade, security of supply and ultimate tax revenues. It can only have a depressant effect on investment in UK oil and gas."

Dismissing the claims of the oil industry, he said: "You would expect that to be said, of course, by the pressure group. The fact is that over the last two years, the oil price has moved from an average of $25 to $55. That has meant that the oil producers have had a huge increase in the profits that are available to them.

Investment companies attacked the cancellation of plans to allow people to claim tax relief on second homes, fine wines and other valuables bought as pension investments, known as the Self-Invested Personal Pensions (Sipps) scheme.

Chris Huhne, the Liberal Democrat treasury spokesman, said Mr Brown had wasted thousands of hours of taxpayers' time by failing to act earlier.